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Studying and Certification

Studying and Certification

Studying and Certification, what I've learned so far...

After training as a Software Engineer, I thought I would have to do more university qualifications to stay in touch with best practices. As it turns out, I was wrong. Since 2017 and with 11 leading industry certifications under my belt including the CCNA from Cisco and the Certified Kubernetes Administrator from the Linux Foundation, I have found industry certifications to be the best medium of continuous professional development for the Infrastructure and/or DevOps engineer.

My experience as a DevOps and Infrastructure Engineer has yielded the following insights

- Systems in infrastructure are becoming more and more abstracted, which is in practice is depleting engineering knowhow around their operation and administration. Many lower-lying features are now automated

- When something goes wrong, the resulting inexperience with lower-lying systems behaviours due to the above point is an obstacle in swiftly remedying an issue

- Lack of certification can possibly hinder getting a job as employers do take comfort in certifications and the technical knowledge they guarantee 

I have found that certifications supplement a good deal of this missing deep-dive knowledge from daily operations in key areas, especially if the courses are completed in a committed and detailed manner. Certifications open up the engineer to increases in exposure from within and outside the company, which can lead to greater opportunities backed up by greater refinement of skills and know-how. So how do I get my certifications done in a manner, which allows me to garner real skills in addition to getting the benefits of certification?

I started out by selecting a good course provider and following a structured learning path for each certification that must be backed up by practical labs on real servers and cloud accounts covering key course areas. Paying a little more in online subscriptions is key for use of their cloud accounts via labs and sandboxes, versus spinning up AWS or Azure servers on your own cloud accounts. It fixes costs regarding training in practical labs/sandboxes on some very expensive cloud products. It's also fair to say that it's a more qualitative learning experience than spinning up a local instance like a server or a Minikube cluster. My study lessons on theory/practical lessons/labs follow this flow for maximum impact:

- Start with reviewing your notes from the prior session. Do they make sense? Can you talk through the technology, task or process in a seamless manner reading the notes? Would you be able to do so if you saw the content for the first time? If you don't answer 'yes' to all these questions, step back and revise the prior training session content in your current session. Remember, 'slow is smooth' so valuing the qualitative learning experience will pay back in skills, knowledge and expertise over time. It's truly worth the effort.

- Work through your theory and/or practical session lessons taking notes like you were writing a runbook document.

- Try to keep your sessions to about 1 hour or so before taking a break or wrapping it up. Any more without a break and you begin to lose focus and tire mentally.

- Record your notes in an indexed fashion, I go by folder naming the technology or course followed by file names by number, then by technology, then by description e.g. 01kube_Storage.txt. Keep it in sequence to match the course content agenda making revision and referencing into the future much easier.

- Follow your training lessons in a minimum of 2 to 3 sessions a week plus to completion and try not to break before you prepare for your exam.

- Exam revision should see a full revision of notes followed by a strong focus on exam prep questions and labs. 

- Allow appropriate time to get to the exam ready state and take care to revise areas that cause you trouble in questions and labs. 

This is how I do them and I always overprepare for exams even if feels silly to do so. I am preparing for another right now and will keep you posted on how I do. In the meantime, I hope you step into your continuous professional development journey of certification and achieve your goals with confidence using what works best for you. 

Stay tuned for more on DevOps in this blog along with articles on other areas of interest in the Infrastructure and Writing arenas. To not miss out on any updates on my availability, tips on related areas or anything of interest to all, sign up for one of my newsletters in the footer of any page on Maolte. I look forward to us becoming pen pals!

Best Regards

John

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